Cocktail trends come and go. I was talking with some friends, and realized that the appletini had quietly become passé a few years ago. I do have a certain nostalgia for them. I blame their popularity in my nascent drinking years.
I remember extensive discussions with friends about what places made the best ones. Folks, they were nothing more than vodka and Sour Apple Pucker. There wasn't a whole lot of difference between them. The "good" ones weren't much more interesting than a piece of hard candy, and the bad ones were reminiscent of floor cleaner. There must be a better way!
Of course there's a better way, or I wouldn't be writing about it right now.
For a while now, I've held in my back pocket a brilliant imprevement on the tired old appletini. It's called An Apple a Day, from one of my favorite New York bartenders, the legendary Audrey Saunders. There's still Sour Apple Pucker in there, but this drink tastes uncannily like a fresh, crisp apple.
What did Saunders to do breathe life into the tired old Appletini? The first thing she did was she got rid of the usual vodka, and used gin. That alone makes a pretty dramatic improvement, enough that the drink just might make a comeback on just the one change.
But Audrey Saunders did even better. The drink has extra dimension with gin, but it still needed some acid. So, in goes some lime juice, plus a little bit of extra sugar for balance.
Then, to recreate the tannic bite of a crisp apple, Saunders used two ingredients, grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur. The latter has nothing to do with those neon red cherries or their syrup. It's a liqueur made from Marasca cherries and their pits. The inclusion of the pits gives it a pleasantly astringent, gently nutty flavor.
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When I'm tooling around with drinks, I find that a little dash of maraschino is often welcome if I feel like a drink is a little flat. In An Apple a Day, it works brilliantly. Just don't overdo it; a little goes a long way.
An Apple A Day Pick a juniper-heavy London Dry gin to go up against the cloying flavor of Sour Apple Pucker. Saunders uses good ol' Gordon's, I reach for Tanqueray. ¾ ounce fresh lime juice ½ ounce fresh grapefruit juice 1 ounce gin 1 ounce Sour Apple Pucker ¼ ounce maraschino liqueur ½ ounce simple syrup
Shake with ice cubes. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry, and a slice of apple.